Making a Good Stock

Stocks are at the very base of any soup or sauce that you will make. If you can say that you will need a liquid of any type, a stock will greatly improve the flavor in the end. In today’s kitchens, smaller operations don’t have enough time or space to make stocks from scratch. These restaurants may turn to the beef base and chicken base substitutes. Though stock bases have a place in the kitchen, nothing really compares to the depth of flavor you get from a homemade stock.

Introduction to Stocks

A lot of professional chefs have their own recipe for stocks. I will cover the bare minimum of what should go into a stock. After, I will give you a few add-ons for what else a stock could use to further its complexity and flavor.

All stocks can be broken down into three parts:making better chicken stock

  1. Water
  2. Bones
  3. Aromatics

The first two are self-explanatory. Aromatics, simply put, give aroma to the stock. “Haha, good one, chef!”. Seriously though, there are aromatic vegetables and herbs. So you could separate this part into two more, thus making four basic components of a stock.

Bones

Bones define what type of stock is being make. Is it a fish stock or a chicken stock? Bones also define the major deference between stock and broth.

Broth can be broken down into three parts:

  1. Water
  2. Meat
  3. Aromatics

Broth can also contain bones whereas a true stock can not contain meat aside from the bits that may still be clinging to the bones themselves. So you could say as soon as meat is thrown into a stock, it becomes a broth.

Water

Yep.

Aromatics

Aromatic vegetables and herbs help to give depth and flavor to a stock. I actually don’t know of any herbs that I would classify as non-aromatic. Typically a bouquet garni is used for the herbs. You can use any herbs you prefer. The most common used herbs are parsley, thyme, and bay leaves. Herbs de Provence are a specific combination of herbs which originated in Provence, France. This is originally made up of oregano, rosemary, savory, and thyme. Peppercorns are also used as an aromatic but they fall under spices.

Aromatic vegetables include onions, celery, and carrots. There are others; we are going to focus on these three because they are the main aromatic vegetables and also have their own name. These three vegetables are commonly referred to as mirepoix. There are different versions of what we call mirepoix based upon the country or region of where it originates. For example, in Spain it would be sofrito and in New Orleans, USA it would be called trinity. These are not only named differently but there are slight variations in which aromatic vegetables are used. Trinity is made up of onion, celery and green peppers. I love to add leeks and mushrooms into my mirepoix.

Making the Stock

Here are the basics to a good stock. Once you have mastered cooking stock like a chef, you can make it your own by adding or substituting any of your personal favorite vegetables or herbs. You can use different types of peppercorns. Some very old stock recipes will call for a pig’s foot because of the high amount of gelatin you can extract from them. Some very best chefs in the world have their recipes for stocks included in their own cookbooks. My personal favorites being Thomas Keller and Marco Pierre White. Check them out in the bookshelf section of the Chef Shop.

A note on salt. Don’t use salt! If you add salt to your stock like anything else you cook, it will concentrate over the long cooking time and be too salty. Only use salt at the time of preparing whatever dish you intend to use the stock for.

Beef Stockfinished chicken stock

  • Yield: 1 gal
  • Ingredients:
  • 10 lbs. Beef Bones
  • Canola Oil
  • 1 lb Onions
  • 1/2 lb Celery
  • 1/2 lb Carrots
  • 1/4 lb Mushrooms, or mushroom stems
  • Parsley
  • Thyme
  • Bay Leaves
  • 10-15 peppercorns

Enough water to cover all ingredients by approximately 5 inches

Toss bones with canola oil and roast for about 1 hour at 400 degrees F.

Rough chop vegetables. Once the bones are a dark brown, add to a stock pot. Add the vegetables, herbs and peppercorns. Cover with cold water.

Bring the pot up to a low simmer and let it go for at least 8 hours (12 is better and for best results, put on the lowest setting and simmer overnight). You want to skim the foam at the top as much as possible. This will help create more of a clear stock.

Strain all the contents and place pot back on the stove and bring to slow rolling boil. Reduce the stock until you have approximately 3/4 – 1 gallon of stock.

Chicken Stock

  • Yield: 3 qts.
  • Ingredients:
  • 5 lbs. Chicken Bones
  • Canola Oil
  • 8oz Onions
  • 4oz Celery
  • 4oz Carrots
  • 4oz Mushrooms, or mushroom stems
  • Parsley
  • Thyme
  • Bay Leaves
  • 10 peppercorns
  • Water to cover by 4 inches

Toss the bones in oil and roast them at 400 degrees F for about 45 minutes.  Transfer to a stock pot, add the rest of the ingredients and cover with cold water.

Bring the pot to a simmer on low heat and skim frequently.  Simmer for at least 6 hours.

Strain out the contents and return the stock to the pot.  Bring it to a slow rolling boil and reduce to about 3 quarts.

Fish Stock

  • Yield: 3 qts.
  • Ingredients:
  • 3 lbs. Fish Bones (use only white fish: bones and heads, avoid the bloodlines)
  • 4 oz  Onions
  • 4 oz  Leeks
  • 2 oz  Parsnips
  • 2 oz  Celery
  • Parsley
  • Thyme
  • Bay Leaves
  • 5 peppercorns
  • Water to cover by 2-4 four inches

You want to rinse the bones in cold water a couple times to get any excess blood or the like out of the stock.  Put all the ingredients directly into the stock pot and cover with cold water.  Bring to a simmer over low heat and begin to skim frequently.  You want your fish stock to simmer for about 2 hours.  Strain your stock, return to the pot, and reduce to about 3 quarts.

Vegetable Stock

fresh vegetables

Vegetable stocks are very versatile.  When working in restaurant kitchens, I would always have a container specifically for any ends or trimmings of vegetables.  I saved a lot and did not waste the extra parts that most would toss into the trash.  Depending on what you are making, add vegetables from the original region of the dish.  For example, if you are making Chicken Tortilla Soup, add some peppers and cilantro to your stock.

  • Yield: 1 gal
  • Ingredients:
  • Onions
  • Carrots
  • Celery
  • Leeks
  • Mushrooms
  • Tomatoes
  • Parsley
  • Bay Leaves
  • Thyme
  • Peppercorns
  • About 5 quarts water

Add all ingredients to the stock pot and cover with cold water.  Simmer for 45 minutes to 1 hour.  Strain and reduce to about 1 gal.

I’m ready to make this stock my own.

These are just the very basic ingredients used for making stocks.  I mentioned earlier that some will add other bones such as pigs feet for extra gelatin.  Some chefs add chicken wings to their chicken stock.

I make my own chicken wings at home.  In order to cook the wings evenly in the fryer, I always bake the wings until just done in my oven.  Wings give off a lot of good juices from their bones.  After taking them out of the oven, I pour off the excess liquid into a pot and let it cool.  Then I skim the fat and save to add to my chicken stock the next time I make it.

I also like to add garlic into all of my stocks.  The amount I use will differ depending on beef/chicken stocks vs vegetable/fish stocks.  I use less in the latter because of the powerful flavor.

You are ready to start stocking up on stocks!  You can freeze your stocks for up to 6 months.  Good luck on that; once you start making these stocks, you will want to use them pretty fast.

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2 thoughts on “Making a Good Stock”

  1. Thank you for this great recipe. I am cooking some chicken stock as I write this, and I wish I had read your recipe two hours ago! Had no idea that the adding the salt wasn’t the best idea. Thanks for the advice, will keep it in mind for the next time.
    Looking forward to some more stock ideas!
    Best,
    Alenka

    1. I’m glad you found this helpful. I’ve been very busy lately and had just logged on to finish my stock post. I have a rough draft hand written in front of me and I looked up and saw your comment. What a coincidence!
      Thanks for the kind words,
      Brett

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